Throwback Thursday #2: The Lies We (I) Tell Ourselves (Myself)

Writer.

It’s what I tell people I am.

Most of the time it’s true.

Even in times of writing drought, when I was embarrassed by the day job, I told people I was a writer, as if that would somehow make up for, what I considered, my professional shortcomings.

I’m not just a food server, I’m a struggling artist.

I’ll never forget the time I used an elaborate word in front of a guest and them being surprised that I knew such a word and used it properly in context. How insulting.

Saying I’m a writer is almost like a hall pass. It takes time to make it, so floundering is all just a part of the journey. Working towards that goal for a number of years is expected, but I discovered I was lying. Pretending.

Disney’s Pinocchio

Not intentionally, of course. And really only to myself.

It was a way for me to justify taking another dead end job because a “real” job would be all-consuming and take away from what I really wanted to do. It was a way to excuse the life I had found myself in. It was a way for my friends to think me brave for following my dreams after all these years.

I didn’t want it bad enough. I thought it would be easier. The story is not quite right…yet.

Those are simple lies I could tell myself, in hindsight, as to why “it” hasn’t happened yet, but they’re simply not true.

I’ve always wanted to be a writer. It seems I’ve only ever gotten in my own way.

Maybe it’s fear. Maybe it’s laziness.

Showing up for a dream is hard.

I was searching through old posts for today’s subject matter and came across so many instances of me saying I was going to “do things different this year”. I was going to try a new strategy. Set new goals. Make my mark.

It all led to this.

I’ve had this blog for 8 years now. I can count on one hand the number of times I did something different in attempt to propel my career forward. I write about staying positive, reaching for your dreams, slaying your goals and rewarding yourself for achieving them because I wanted to create a space in which I could inspire others, as well as track my progress.

Progress…ha!

Finding myself regurgitating the same words all these years later…well, let’s just say it was rather eye opening.

If my actions are any indication as to who I am, I am mostly not a writer. But it is who I want to be.

I have wasted years not writing, but I’ve never not said I wasn’t a writer. It’s a big lie I’ve told myself, and one I will not continue to perpetuate.

One of my goals for this year was to discover what aspect of my writing to work on. I thought it might be structure or pacing.

Goodness. What sort of Pandora’s box did I open?!

Apparently, my problem is follow through. I could write all day, every day, but without an actual endgame, there is nothing to propel me forward to making writing all day, every day a reality. A contest deadline isn’t enough. There has to be more. More action. More steps forward. More accountability. More solid, actual progress.

I’ve been on a mission for months now, after that lightbulb moment, and I am proud to report that I’ve finished one story, rewritten two screenplays, and am nearly halfway through writing a new one. But now it’s time to do something about it.

This post (may) hint at my self-loathing for my ability to so long not go after my dream, despite all the quotes to the contrary, but it is the kick in the pants I need to get myself off this merry-go-round. Why would you want to keep reading about my journey if I don’t have one?

I want to throw my fist in the air and say “That all changes today!”, but it physically can’t, there are steps that have to be taken, but I am taking a first step in that direction soon.

A story for another day.

What lies have you told yourself that are keeping you from achieving what you want? Let’s help one another move passed them!

xx, Rach

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Quote Monday

by Quotes.pub

I like to share a bit of inspiration at the beginning of the week, but for me and some of you who work a non-traditional work week, it’s like my Thursday.

I suppose the inspiration helps to get me to my weekend, when I can finally decompress and be productive in the ways that truly matter.

This week’s quote is to help us writers with our confidence. Something I know I struggle with. We’re a strange breed. We spend hours beyond counting in solitude, consumed by self-doubt and without any encouragement for years, and then, at some point, are forced to pull a 180 in order to face the world in an effort to become “professional”.

And people wonder why so many writers are unstable. πŸ˜‰

We already have to be so many different people for our art – the writer, the editor, the audience, the hero, the villain – and then we have to alter ourselves to make it happen by being confident.

Okay.

It’s easy to be confident while I write. I take on the persona of my characters, the ones who are willing to do anything to achieve their goals, who go on big adventures, and do great things. I put myself in their shoes and walk into rooms as if I own them.

In the real world, not so much.

It’s hard to be confident when we’re unsure of the outcome. When we’re new. When we’re in a room with people higher on the ladder with much more sway. Or all the sway. But this is not so much about the physicality of the situation, but instead about shifting our mentality.

We have to be secure in what we’ve done and what we’re ready to put out in the world.

Easier said than done, I know.

Like any new skill, it takes time and practice aka patience.

One way I think of obtaining said “confidence” is knowing what we want for ourselves – our measure of success.

What needs to happen for you to count yourself as successful? There will always be disappointments, but what will give you satisfaction?

I’ve long dreamt of winning an Oscar. I mean, c’mon. How cool would that be? But does the possibility of never winning one diminish my drive? Nope. It’s a big reach, and a political gambit, apparently, so I don’t place my measure of success on having that gold statuette on my mantle. But I do have my dress picked out, just in case. Think of this, Stephen Hawking never won a Nobel, so…you know, perspective.

I also believe that as we continue to meet and exceed our goals, that helps to build our confidence as well. So as we look forward to a new year and the associated objectives we wish to accomplish, tackle those small tasks that lead to bigger ones (and then tackle those too) and reward yourself each step of the way.

Be brave, my fellow writers. Be confident. And Happy Writing!

Throwback Thursday #1 : Articles on Screenwriting

Photo by ThisIsEngineering on Pexels.com

Ages ago, I shared this article from Script, a site for screenwriters, called Notes from the Margins: Every Article on Screenwriting You Never Have to Read Again by Danny Manus. I have read and saved a number of articles in my pursuit of becoming a professional screenwriter, and this one, in particular, reiterated how contradictory so many of them are. It will make you think twice before clicking on another.

How is a newbie ever to make heads or tails of it all? Sometimes, it’s just too much.

This year I decided to clean up the folder with said saves because some of them are years old now, and while probably still worth reading, at this point, I’ve most likely come across the information elsewhere. Plus, as the article above makes clear, most of what’s out there is bullsh*t.

Screenwriting is an elusive career path. There is no direct, one-way only entry. It’s not like any other creative pursuit, let alone traditional ones. A novelist can write a book and seek out a publisher or self-publish. A painter can create a work of art and put it on display. If a screenwriter wants their work “out there” we’re often told to make a short.

I don’t want to be director. I don’t think. So that means I have to find a director…?

I barely have any writer friends as it is.

So those already in the know share what they’ve learned, what trends they’re “seeing”, and basically utilize their position to further their own careers via writing guest posts, pushing their screenwriting books, classes, or services, and offering “advice” on how to break in.

Yes, I’m using quotes to reiterate how inconsequential so much of that advice truly is, especially when you keep scrolling and read advice to the contrary, as the above article highlights.

Like any advice, good or bad, take it with a grain of salt.

I’m also learning that the more time I spend reading the “should and should-not” posts is just more time taken away from doing what I actually should be doing – writing.

If you’re interested in researching a particular subject, like screenwriting contests, of course, seek those out, from reputable sources, but maybe be more discerning with the content you subscribe to and how much time you spend on subjects that don’t currently relate to your situation.

How’s that for advice? Some I need to follow myself. I’m off to delete!

So now that you’ve read my post about articles and their potential uselessness, thank you very much, by the way, close this window and go write! πŸ˜‰

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

This isn’t the quote I was originally considering for today, but when I came upon it, it just struck a chord within me. I suppose this could be a Writing Tip as well.

This is one reason I need to return to the writing prompts. They encourage me to try new styles, to write something other than what I’m already familiar with. Reading helps with this too. I’m reading an Anthony Burgess (author of books such as A Clockwork Orange) right now and it’s a total slog and I want to quit, but now it’s a challenge. There has to be a purpose to the randomness, and because I’m trying to read outside my “normal” realm of genre and stories, it’s like I’m being stubborn. It’s going to pull down my reading average and I probably won’t make my annual reading goal, but I will finish it.

Experimenting with our writing is a great way to challenge ourselves as creatives and grow more adept in the craft. I’ve read that screenwriters should have at least one story outside their genre in their portfolio to show the higher ups that they’re capable of more than the brand they’ve developed. It’s about breaking from comfort zones.

This quote was probably more purposefully written about life, and we need that too. It’s how we get ideas – by experiencing more facets of the world around us. I know for most of us, we’re quite content to stay home and live vicariously through our characters, we’re writers, after all, but we need to fill the well in order to draw from it. (I say this happily enjoying a quiet day at home with no desire to leave the comfort of my living room. πŸ™‚ Eh, there’s always tomorrow.)

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

I had this video of Tom Hiddleston’s “greatest life advice” saved on YouTube and finally gave it a watch this morning. The title was catchy, but let’s be honest, I was watching it for him. But then the video barely showed him, although it did let me listen to him. I feel like some second place prize analogy is relevant here. As he spoke, this was the line that struck me the most because I realized this was the lightbulb moment I had a couple of months ago verbalized by this delightful man.

About two weeks ago, I literally uttered the phrase, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Gracious. I still roll my eyes in retrospect, but I’ve discovered it’s true. When I was in my 20s and 30s, I felt like I had time. Even a few months ago I was still in that deluded mindset.

I think I might be having a mid-life crisis.

Living with The Sis all these years has kept me young. Not only does she support my passions, she encourages them, and vice versa. I’m lucky in that, but maybe, to some degree, that has added to the delusion. I don’t really feel my age, except in the mornings now when my joints crackle as I arise from bed, or when I have caffeine later in the day and it keeps me up, or when I have one more cocktail and feel crappy the next morning because I don’t bounce back like I used to. Yeah, I definitely feel my age in those moments. But it’s when you don’t feel the weight, the burden of time passing, the pressure to pursue your goal with some tenacity lessens.

I’ve always said I was a late bloomer, so here I am, finally…come to the conclusion that time is finite.

Whatever it is you want to do, do it. There will never be the perfect time, and waiting for it won’t help you get any closer to that goal. Obviously if there are some restrictions, financial or the like, the pursuit may be slowed, but there are a number of other things you can do in the meantime. As writers, we can write, but if for some reason that’s not working at the moment we can continue to learn. We can read, we can find a class, join a writer’s group, or watch videos with professionals discussing the craft. If it’s some other pursuit, creative or otherwise, there are starting points for all of them.

One life.

This conclusion is something we all come to in our own time. I’m not trying to force my own revelation upon you, it’s just that I wish my youthful arrogance had not caused me to brush off those pearls of wisdom from my elders, you know the ones – how time flies and how youth is wasted on the young – those are actual life lessons, ones you only come to on the other side, and they’re ones I wish to give you honest insight into in the hopes that you will reflect and decide how you want to pursue your own goals.

There are so many things I want to do, and have put off under the guise that “I’ll do them later”, but am now realizing I might not ever get the opportunity to. Another wasted pearl that I am now learning the truth of, “In the end you only regret the things you didn’t do.”

For Tom Hiddleston, he learned early on that his approach to becoming a professional actor wasn’t working for him, and so he changed his perspective and then pursued his goal relentlessly (and could he be a better example?). I wish that for all of us. Sooner than later. So that we can enjoy the fruits of our labor. πŸ˜‰

If you want to listen to how Hiddles inspired me today, here’s the link.

Happy Writing!

Quote of the Week

Pearl S. Buck

The last couple of weeks have been a bust. With a work schedule change I’d have to get up even earlier to get my morning routine done, and that’s asking a lot of a night owl, and then, inexplicably, I got a head cold…how?! So there has been no writing, of any kind, because by the time I get home, all I want to do is snuggle my pups and enjoy a hot toddy.

So you can imagine my frustration these past weeks since having found that newfound desire to create. I’ve come home and stared at the screen and just felt tired and foggy. So annoying.

And because of the congestion, only a few days of yoga in all this time. I feel so off my game.

In the folly of my youth, I used to think you had to be inspired to write. I should have known better since I had to learn to crank out a script in college for a couple of semesters. I didn’t have the luxury of waiting for inspiration to strike. I had to deliver or fail the class. And I was never going to fail a writing class.

As writers, we only have ourselves to rely upon. We show up because we want have to. Like any new habit, or part of any routine, we have to rewire our brains (and our bodies) to understand that at a certain point in the day, it’s time to write, whether we feel like it or not. Whether we’re inspired or not. It’s the only way to make progress, and maybe feel a sense of accomplishment for the day.

This week is going to be a two-for because I think this quote by Neil Gaiman sums it up best:

Neil Gaiman

Some people think that they’re writing is crap if they force it, but they should be in draft mode, and until we get into editing mode, it’s all sort of up in the air anyway. Well, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to along the way. Trying to make a first draft (or maybe even the 5th, 10th, what-have-you) perfect is generally not going to happen (although that draft exists and is wonderful for that reason alone), so put in the time, and then reward yourself when you complete your task. Maybe after a few treats, you’ll trick yourself into that new way of thinking. (Oh, look at that, unintentional Halloween humor. πŸ™‚ )

Happy Writing!

Need a Laugh?

Or just want to nod your head in agreement?

I’ve come across these ecards before. In fact, I’ve saved a number of them on Pinterest, but this one was new and made me chuckle, for how many times did I believe I would remember an idea later?

I now keep paper and pens all over the house, in my purse, and car. I use the note app on my phone for the middle of the night or when I’m at work. If I’m in the car and can’t write something down, I repeat it over and over in my head until I come to a stop. I’ve learned my lesson by letting too many thoughts get away.

How many times have you told yourself this lie? πŸ˜‰ And do you have any tips on how to avoid this to share?

Happy Writing!

Quote Monday

I did it.

I finally wrote two of the most encouraging words for a screenwriter:

Fade Out.

The troublesome third act, the one I’ve been complaining about (for years) has finally come to a conclusion and I feel a sense of satisfaction, for the first time.

There has always been something off about the third act, no matter how many versions I tried, it was never right, and then I got that advice at AFF, and although that was nearly two years ago now, it finally all came together. Whew.

The two years is not ideal, nor acceptable in the real world – I still have the luxury of being a non-professional – but it is apparent that the time was necessary to get it right. It’s also apparent that I need some fellow screenwriters in my life.

When I wrote those two little words this morning, the feeling of accomplishment was such a relief, rather than the feeling of depression I recently felt at the end of the other story I had been working on. This has been my baby, for longer than it should have been, but after a rewrite or seven, I look forward to watching it go out into the world. It’s long overdue.

This particular story is special to me. It has changed so much over the years, but the heart of it has always remained the same. And I have high hopes for it, so it is with some trepidation that I’ll send it out, crossing my fingers that it will be well received, but that’s later.

For now I am going to relish the moment. Maybe do a little celebratory dance.

I often see these quotes that say to “trust the timing”, etc. and I sort of thought it was all bullish*t, but a few things needed to happen to get me to this place, and I wouldn’t be the writer I am now without that journey. I am planning to rewrite all of my scripts in order to prepare for next year’s submission season, and the ideas I’ve had, I’m not sure I would have had them prior to all this. Well, I suppose that’s obvious as I’m having them now…so here I am, spewing the same line.

If you are struggling, find someone you can bounce ideas around with, and trust that the story will find its way.

I wish you luck! Happy Writing!

Writing Tip (Almost Tuesday) #4

I recently met a young man who wants to be a screenwriter. I was delighted to meet someone with whom I might be able to talk “shop” and bounce ideas around with, potentially.

I was surprised to learn he doesn’t write, let alone read.

I was confused. And slightly disappointed.

“How do you know you want to be a screenwriter?” I questioned with a raised quizzical eyebrow.

“I have an idea that I think would make a cool tv show. Do you have any advice on how to begin?”

Uhh, yeah. “Start writing. Anything.”

And then I wondered at what else a young, hopeful writer should know.

The writing bit seemed fairly obvious as one needs to find their voice, so I encouraged him to try his hand at a variety of styles.

The second piece of advice I gave him was to read. A lot. I recently discovered the unique writing of Ursula K. Le Guin via her novel, The Wizard of Earthsea. She has her own way, and I’m kind of sad I only just found her because I’ve had her books on my shelf for years and she’s different from anything else I’ve read.

I suggested that he could start doing research on the topic and that it could lead him to have a better understanding of the story he wants to tell. So far it was just a specific time period because, I think, he likes the idea of the set dressing.

Finally I advised watching shows that are thematically or genre specifically similar to his so that he knows what’s out there. There’s this idea among new writers that they might be unduly influenced, but any professional will tell them that in order to market their own material, they must be familiar with the competition.

I definitely wanted to encourage the spark of creativity to grow, but I had that sense, the one so many of us, as writers, have encountered before – he’s just another random person with “an idea”.

You know the one.

But he is still young, although if you don’t read or write, how do you decide that this is the path you wish to follow?

It’s like…I don’t know…wanting to be a chef because you watch cooking shows even though you don’t cook.

I want to believe that this could be the beginning of his journey, and like I said, I wanted to encourage him, so I asked questions to get him thinking in greater detail of the overall story he may want to tell, and offered other tips, but what it comes down to, and this is the scary side of becoming a writer, is that it is truly about finding your own way.

I knew I wanted to be a writer from a young age. It’s just taken me a long, and rather winding path to finally get here. Maybe this spark of an idea is enough to propel him forward into becoming a writer, himself. Either way, we all find our calling in different ways, and it’s up to us to pursue it.

I didn’t tell him about the struggles we face, there’s no reason to scare him off in the early days. I’ll leave that for him to discover in his own time, like we all did πŸ˜‰ because when I think back on all I’ve learned and experienced – the years of research, the articles and books read, the years of tv and movie watching, the sleepless nights when I was on a roll (or when I wasn’t), the writing droughts, the rejections, the few and far between hints of encouragement, finding inspiration in the waking moments and when you’re drifting off to sleep, the trying to stay positive, and taking dead-end jobs (too often) to keep the dream alive – goodness, that’s probably best kept to myself.

Such is our life.

So on that note, fellow writers, what other advice would you give a newbie?

Quote Monday

Yoga. It’s one of the things I wish I had discovered years ago. It’s one of the things I wish my friend, Jill had forcefully dragged me off to when she was going to classes in our 20s because now that I’m in my 40s, it has become one of my favorite things, and I feel like I wasted a lot of time not doing yoga.

You may be wondering why a writing blog is talking about yoga. First of all, I never thought I’d be “that” person, you know the one, the one who tells you that you should be doing yoga, but in the first year of practicing, I discovered a few things.

Last year, in what will be immortalized as “the year that was 2020”, my stress and anxiety were at an all time high. The Sis and I received a trial of an online service, and we tried a variety of classes – dance, HIIT, sculpt, strength – but it was yoga that really stuck. It calmed me down and helped to put things into perspective.

I’ve never enjoyed going to the gym. Even taking a 30 minute HIIT class was a chore. But when you’re out of work and a writer, you do a lot of sitting around, and all the “experts” tell you that you should do some form of exercise everyday, even just a walk around the block, so I knew I needed to do something, but it needed to be the right something.

I’ve been hard on my body all these years, and yoga is easy on me. Obviously there are some difficult poses, and I often sweat, but I’m not asking my body to bear the brunt of impact as I jump and work to get my blood pumping. There have been physical side effects, because it is still exercise, but what impressed me more were the mental ones. In some breath work and even some poses, I have found emotional release. In the stillness I have discovered how to fix story problems, and I’ve had new ideas spring up.

Yoga is a form of meditation. You focus on your breath and in being in the present moment. Your mind will drift, and mine usually does, but you clear your mind and come back to the breath. It grounds you. It was a saving grace in troubled times, and it left me with a feeling I hadn’t found in other workouts – feeling better for having done it. What I also didn’t expect were the enlightening moments that came in the quiet.

I am working on an older story that desperately needs a third act rewrite, and for about a week, I’ve been in research mode, wondering how to get back into it, how to finish it, and then literally, within the first two minutes of getting grounded in my yoga practice the other day, it came to me. I had to put the video on pause and write it down before it escaped me.

Writers have a lot on their minds. If we’re not writing, we’re thinking about writing. Every. Possible. Aspect. Of. Writing. And not only do we have all this going on, there is regular life stuff too. There is so much around us to distract, that a little quiet time is often the best solution, but in that silence, we are usually still quite active. If we sit at our desk in the wee hours of the morning before everyone else is awake, or at night when the world is finally quiet, we are still deafened by all the noise in our heads.

So yes, this writing blog is encouraging you to try yoga. To give yourself an opportunity to still your mind. To give yourself an actual break from all the thoughts and just breathe.

Don’t worry about not having all the props necessary. There are ways around them. Don’t worry about service fees. There are free online classes on multiple platforms. You don’t have the time? If you’re already working out, just swap activities for a bit. If you’re not, try. There are even 15 minute classes available, and we all have 15 minutes somewhere in our day.

I’m in no way an expert, but I’m happy to try to answer any questions you may have. If I hadn’t found these moments of clarity, I wouldn’t be trying to peddle yoga, but I have, and it has been enormously beneficial on my peace of mind. And we all deserve a little bit of that.

Happy Writing! And Namaste!